The evening is beautiful and calm in the Bay and the Great Blue Heron rests while waiting for the tide to drop so it can feed.
As fog swirls into the Bay, the Great Blue Heron sits regally on the piling. The American Robin sitting on the picket fence lingers still and has been sighted regularly in the garden in recent days while most other robins have already migrated further south. As the season changes, the sights and sounds of familiar bird species arriving to winter over on the mild east coast of Vancouver Island are a welcome sight and the beautiful drifting calls of Loons across the water are hauntingly beautiful.
It was a beautiful afternoon, evening and sunset here in the bay, the Great Blue Heron on the piling added to the magic and beauty of the moment.
With a report of Orcas (A30’s and I15’s) east of Forward Bay in Johnstone Strait this morning and still easting we explored in through Weynton Passage and it was here that we enjoyed the dynamic behaviour of four Humpback Whales feeding in a specific area of the Passage where large flocks of Common Murres and Rhinoceros Auklets had also gathered. With our engine off and our boat drifting in the current, it was breathtaking to watch the surfacing and diving sequences of the whales as they circled back and forth, surfacing one after another and simultaneously at times with one whale breaching once nearby the boat much to the surprise of us all. The viewing was exciting and superb while the sounds of Murres calling back and forth to their young, the blows and trumpeting of the whales and the background roaring chatter of Stellar Sea Lions all added greatly to the mystical atmosphere and exquisite beauty of the day as seen in the clearing fog. Also seen: Stellar Sea Lions, Dall’s Porpoises, Bald Eagles, Red-necked Phalaropes, Belted Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons, Ruddy Turnstones, Black Oyster Catchers, a Pelagic Cormorant, Mew, Herring and Glaucous-winged Gulls. Like yesterday, due to the denseness of the fog that lingered for much of the tour, there is little contrast in the greyness of the photo images posted today.
When we headed out this morning we did so in bright sunshine with a clear view ahead of us down Johnstone Strait while a heavy fog bank hung above us and soon began dropping as we made our way down the Strait to where Orcas had been reported earlier inside the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. It was therefore an incredibly moving and beautiful encounter that we were fortunate to witness, just as we neared Blackney Passage this morning when Orcas appeared suddenly out of the fog. There were initially two groups, the A30’s were closer to mid-Strait and the A34’s who were slightly behind but closest to Blackney Passage. It was a breathtaking moment to see the A34’s swimming by under water and then surfacing near the bow of the boat and watching as they stalled momentarily while forming a long resting line of 10 individuals, a beautiful sight and somewhat surreal in the morning fog. Taking photo’s was not easy with the fog being so dense, there was little contrast between the black and white Orcas, grey water and dull white foggy surroundings, yet beautiful it was! The A30’s moved ahead along with the A12’s and behind them were the I15’s, spread out, some we observed were foraging along the Hanson Island shoreline and some beautiful G-Clan calls were heard at that point, we had also listened to echolocations and A-Clan calls earlier from the A34’s. Leaving the orcas as they continued moving west, we made our way into Weynton Passage and sighted the blow of a Humpback Whale. The fog was clearing rapidly and soon we could see that there were at least three whales, possibly four moving about in the flooding current, with one seen as far up as Cormorant Channel. It was a fabulous day, topped off as we were nearing Alder Bay with the sighting of yet another Humpback Whale surfacing and diving a distance away from us in Pearse Passage. Also seen today: Stellar Sea Lions, Harbour Seals, Dall’s Porpoises, Bald Eagles, Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets, Red-necked Phalaropes, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, Black Oyster Catchers, Belted Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons and Mew, Herring and Glaucous-winged Gulls.
It was another day of contrast, colour and visual beauty in Johnstone Strait, beginning with heavy fog early on in the tour when Orcas were first reported heading back to the west in the vicinity of the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. After briefly glimpsing a Humpback Whale in Weynton Passage, we continued down the Hanson Island shoreline and near the Baron Reefs, just east of Cracroft Point, we knew that we were getting close to the approaching Orcas, but still could not see them due to the denseness of the fog. Suddenly, there some were, surfacing near the bow of our boat, travelling quickly, porpoising along. They were the A50’s from the A30 Matriline and as we looked, Johnstone Strait was suddenly clearing of fog and with the blink of an eye, had vanished and all across the Strait, small groups of Orcas could be seen, spread out, all moving to the west. The sun was bright and warming, the sky blue and the Strait beautiful and shimmering, there was not a breath of wind. Orca blows and that of a Humpback Whale were clearly seen with the Humpback Whale being centre Strait and easting. We also observed some of the I15’s, their G-Clan vocalizations were heard via our hydrophone, as well as echolocations from both the A30’s and I15’s foraging nearby. It was interesting to watch the A50’s who had passed us by, suddenly charge back to forage close to the boat and then continued on in the direction of Cracroft Point where the rest of the A30’s were foraging in the vicinity of Blackney Passage where the current was flooding. The A8’s were also in the mix of orcas in the Strait today. It was up near Weynton Passage in Johnstone Strait that we observed two Humpback Whales lunge feeding through herring balls, and again like yesterday, we observed as the Whales quickly moved to where flocks of gulls were feeding on the herring at the surface of the water while mostly Common Murres had also gathered and were diving under the water to feed, in doing so, driving the herring upwards. As well as lunge feeding, we also observed some feeding where a whale simply hung suspended at the surface of the water and opening its mouth that filled with feed, it closed it, repeating the process a few times before moving on. As we began making our way homeward, a small group of Dall’s Porpoises joined us at the bow, riding along beside us, they treated us to some beautiful close-up viewing of them. Finally, near Pearse Passage, a Minke Whale who we identified as Bolt, was suddenly sighted surfacing nearby providing a wonderful finale to an extraordinary day of numerous Cetacean sightings. Also seen: Harbour Seals, Rhinoceros Auklets, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, Red-necked Phalaropes, Great Blue Herons and Gulls++.
While fog hung low throughout our tour, we so enjoyed viewing an abundance of marine life of various species, shapes and forms. The first humpback whale that we sighted was near the Plumper Islands. Listening for a blow and following the sound of its breath, we all waited in anticipation and suddenly we encountered the large fluke disappearing before us beneath the water. When the whale resurfaced we counted it taking eight breathes and timed its dive of seven minutes, a pattern that was repeated. We next encountered a Stellar Sea Lion and observed its fishing antics with great interest, the sea-lion would dive and resurface with a good sized salmon each time, thrusting it about with vigour and attracting gulls by his action, all hungry to grab snippets of his feast. It was exciting for everyone when we encountered a single Dall’s Porpoise riding alongside the bow of our boat followed by some 10+ other porpoises who rode alongside for several more minutes. Breaking out of the fog momentarily into the Queen Charlotte Strait we also observed three more Humpback Whales. Other species also seen today: Harbour Seals ++(hauled out and swimming), a Great Blue Heron, Red-Necked Phalaropes, Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets, Bald Eagles, Black Oyster Catchers, Ruddy Turnstones, Herring, Mew and California Gulls.